Irish fall in ACC semifinals to Virginia
Joe Everett | Thursday, November 9, 2017
In ACC semifinal play, No. 13 Notre Dame fell to No. 17 Virginia 2-1 Wednesday night at Klocker Stadium in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Throughout the majority of the first half, neither the seventh-seeded Irish (11-6-2, 3-3-2 ACC) or the sixth-seeded Cavaliers (12-3-4, 3-2-3) were able to take the lead. Virginia finally drew first blood in the 38th minute, however, when Cavalier sophomore midfielder Robin Afamefuna slotted the ball home past Notre Dame grad student goalkeeper Chris Hubbard for his first goal of the season, putting Virginia up 1-0 heading into halftime.
In the second half, however, the Irish responded quickly. Junior forward Thomas Ueland pushed the ball up the field and found the run of senior forward Jon Gallagher into the middle of the box, where Gallagher quickly flicked the ball past incoming Virginia senior goalkeeper Jeff Caldwell for his 13th goal of the season, knotting the score at one apiece in the 49th minute.
Although it seemed the Irish had finally regained their footing, Virginia did not let the score remain tied for long. In the 54th minute, junior forward Edward Opoku drove the ball into the box, and his cross found the foot of freshman midfielder Joe Bell, who smashed home to give the Cavaliers a 2-1 lead.
For the rest of the game, Notre Dame struggled to generate genuine scoring opportunities, while Virginia successfully controlled possession and even threatened to extend the lead on multiple occasions, eventually earning themselves a trip to the ACC Championship to play against No. 1 Wake Forest. Irish head coach Bobby Clark pointed to the end of the first half as a key turning point in the game, but reflected that the Irish can find silver linings in the loss.
“I thought we started the game very well, but they really pressed us on our end, and so we had a little spell before halftime where the ball was in our half … and then [junior defender] Sean Dedrick had to come out,” Clark said. “[Sophomore midfielder] Tommy McCabe also came out in the second half with an injury, and so we probably would’ve played on Sunday with two of our starts out, so maybe it was a blessing in disguise. It’s disappointing, but it gives us ten days to prepare for the NCAAs — that’s what we’ll get ready for. I think it gives the boys a great chance to get fit again.”
Clark also talked about his team’s performance in the ACC Tournament, and how it will prepare the team for the upcoming NCAA Tournament.
“Difficult games — we had to travel to North Carolina for a very tough road game, came back and then traveled again to Virginia, and if we had one, we would’ve had to travel again on Sunday,” Clark said. ”I’d say that the ACC Championship is harder to win than the NCAA Championship at the moment. I think at the end of the day, we realize how hard our league is … and I think it prepares you superbly [for the National Championship]. If you want to get to the Final Four you’ll have to win at least one game of the caliber of going to North Carolina or Virginia.”
Next up for Notre Dame is the NCAA Tournament, or College Cup. The Irish will find out Monday where they have been seeded within the 48-team field.